The Commonwealth Observer

Contingent of Kiwi troops off to Iraq to fill a training role

New Zealand is sending about 100 troops to Iraq to help in the fight against ISIS. Prime Minister John Key said they will fill training functions in the rear, not combat roles near front lines.

When he announced the move in Commons last month he had acid rebuttals for Opposition critics lashed out angrily at its attacks, saying “Get some guts…”

Key said they would be helping an Australia contingent also involved in preparing Iraqi soldiers to combat Islamic State fighters. But he did not rule out that NZ personnel could help providing intelligence for air strikes by the US, UK and Oz fighters. However, he said if troops were deployed mainly to provide training to local soldiers on the ground, and would not be engaged in battle.

“As I’ve made quite clear to people, they would be behind the wire, so I don’t think realistically most people would define that as war.”

Australia has 600 troops in the region, with another 300 more being deployed when the Kiwis move in. Probably they will be based in Taji, about 30km north of Baghdad.

The Prime Minister said New Zealand did not have a “realistic option of doing nothing” in the fight against ISIS, and he believed he had the public on his side.

“In the past, New Zealand has made significant contributions in the area of training or other activities which I don’t think you would see as war,” he said yesterday.

A national poll on the decision showed 48% favoured the decision, 42% were against it.

Source :NZME; News Service; NZ Herald

Photo credit: New Zealand Defence Force / cc

About the author

Murray Burt

Murray Burt

Murray Burt has been a journalist for nearly 60 years, starting as a cadet reporter in New Zealand, and doing two stints with wire services on Fleet Street before settling in Canada in the newspaper business. He is a retired managing editor of the Winnipeg Free Press, and former city and national editor of The Globe and Mail in Toronto. He is a past-president of the CJA and has been a life member since 2003, participating in each of its conferences and CPU’s conferences since 1990. He is a director of the Advisory Council of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, based in New Delhi; president of Manitoba’s newly-reconstituted Royal Commonwealth Society; and has directorships in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards and the Canadian Forces Liaison Council (western Canada).

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